She’s bright, she’s funny, she’s smart, she drives me crazy… My difficulty is the inconsistency….she’s great, she’s a good listener, she goes out of her way to do something nice for me or her brother…. like I was downstairs today and told Theo I had to take him upstairs to change his diaper. I get to the top of the stairs and there sits a diaper and wipes….
“Thank you, Charlie!” I’m surprised and so grateful….
Now, I’m afraid that her inconsistency stems from mine. It’s like, what came first, the chicken or the egg? Am I the way I am because of her or is she the way she is because of me?
I remind myself that there are many variables here that make up who she is and why she acts the way she does. I understand that… when I am the primary disciplinary in her life, along with her dad, it may feel like just that… I’m a disciplinary. She’s constantly looking to me for what’s black and white and I have defined those things for her…
Along with giving her a sticker at the end of every day she doesn’t get a time-out… When she gets 10, she gets something… this first round she has chosen a tent. She will be getting a tent and we must now start over with a new prize… perhaps this transition of not knowing what the new prize is, is where the trouble starts…
Now, I have read a many books about parenting, discipline, boundaries, and child-rearing… You set rules, consequences and then, don’t you dare, wallow… The one thing you must do in order to survive, is follow through with the stated consequences… That, I do…
However, I will admit, that there are a few instances, rare, but they do happen, where time-out is not 4 minutes on the steps, but in her room and finished when I say it’s finished…. I’m sure this can leave room for confusion on her part.
Charlie, join the club, because I’m just as confused. The books say, “Children need routine, order, they need to feel secure in the world and that this is that and that is this…. I’m here to tell you that the world is orderly… you must do this, in order to get that, and a whole lot of other this and thats…. and that we do show Charlie. The world is also not black and white at all and it’s something, without a doubt, children must learn early enough. It happens naturally, I imagine, but they ingrain it in our heads so we make an effort to keep things routine enough… so the grey all over of the world doesn’t cloud the black and white… it’s more important for children to feel like the world has order, than it is for them to understand that it’s mainly chaotic, and the only way to survive is to create order, and routine.
We are here, we love you, these are the rules and we have problems if you don’t follow them. There is some grey area… let me explain:
I’m vacuuming the steps… not an easy task. I first scrape the carpeted steps with an attachment scraper and then pick the dog hair, etc. up and throw away. Then, I take the vacuum cleaner and use the long attachment to go over the steps again. There gets a point, about the 4th or 5th step from the bottom, where I must carry the vacuum cleaner up the stairs. Could I get a smaller, handheld vacuum? Yes, of course, but I’m alright with it, it’s not that bad… I get to the 5th step from the bottom and look up…. Charlie is standing at the top of the steps, wearing her bathing suit, over it she’s wearing a hot pink unmentionable that she got from a certain matriarch’s dresser drawer. Cute, I know, but she knows not to go in my drawers… I know… it’s cute… I almost took a picture…. I told her to put it back and reminded her not to go in my drawers. A step or two later she wants to know where she can get a towel. I told her no towel, use a blanket. A step later I see her with a beach towel that she got from the hall closet. She looks at me, I say no, and she runs past. I stop the vacuum. I said,
“Charlie, I told you to use a blanket. It’s not about the towel, it’s the point that I told you to use a blanket and you didn’t listen.”
She’s yelling about me, “But I need a towel!”
I said, “No”, she falls to her knees at the top of the steps and yells, “But Mama I NEED A TOWEL!” I tell her she’s not to yell at me like that and to sit here on the step of a time-out.
Note: Over the past few weeks we’ve changed the time-out area to the steps, 2nd or 3rd one, whichever one will keep her out of arms length of her little brother if we put the gate up.
Herein lies the challenge… I’m vacuuming the steps. So she sits on the steps and since I’m right there…vacuuming… she’s arguing with me,
“But MOM, at the beach you don’t use a blanket, you use a towel!”
“Charlie, don’t argue with me, just sit there (still vacuuming)…
Here is where I loose my emotional-free disciplinary tactic… I take the vacuum extension and point it at her like our great-grandmothers would have done with their spatula, cigarette or carving knife, even, depending upon what they were doing at the time, and tell her to get to her room and stay there… there’s still yelling, from her, and I give her a little poke to the leg with the vacuum extension and she cries to her room. Enter deep breathe… finish cleaning…. please relax…. having trouble staying calm, say in a stern voice,
“Charlie, come out here right now and clean up these towels (she had pulled a towel and a blanket out of the closet and I don’t have shelves in the closet so I stack the linens sideways so I can see what all is there…. of course it was all messed up now….) Fold up this blanket right now and put it back… you have five seconds… (I count, she does it)…. Now, take that blanket and fold it up, you have five seconds (I count, she does it and says, “Theo will use this blanket at the beach”) I tell her “not today”…. I tell her to put them back in the closet and she says,
I look her in the eye and say,
“Who do you think organizes this and puts it all away?”
“You,” she says.
“Then you are not to go into the closet without asking, alright?” She nods and I send her off to her room….stay calm…..mind the little boy waddling around, following me…. sit at computer and type… think about what’s going on and how we can make it better…
“Mom, can I come out of my room yet?” she asks….
“No,” I tell her. “Not until I say so.”
She replies, “But it’s been longer than 4 minutes…”
She’s right… it has been… but this isn’t one of those time-outs… she’s really upset me this time…
“You’re right, this isn’t one of those time-outs…”
my voice drifts… Not one of those time-outs?? I ask myself… what am I talking about??? How am I to show her consistency if I fail to be consistent? Now everything she does, she’s going to be testing me, waiting to see if she can get to “not one of those time-outs”…. how much do I have to push Mom until I get her to put me in “not one of those time-outs?”… God help me…. Clearly Mom’s emotions play a part in what kind of time-out I get, so better to keep Mom happy… or not…. and see what she’ll do next…. So, I gather myself together… type a little more….
“Mom, Theo keeps shutting my door! Can I come out yet?”
I walk over to her room and I say, nicely, “He’s a baby, he doesn’t mean to.”
She says, “I don’t care.”
Enough with the “I don’t care”…. she said it to me earlier and I told her it’s not nice but apparently I needed to make myself more clear…. I admit… I’m guilty… I’ve let the phrase slip a few hundred times…. I think back to Charlie saying, “But I don’t want to wash my hands…” I say, “I don’t care if you don’t want to wash your hands, you have to wash your hands!” How many times have we gone over this?… You can imagine the varies times the phrase has slipped from my lips in a moment of frustration… why am I surprised…. I tell her to stay in her room a little longer until she calms down… that makes her mad…. I type a little more and head back to her room….
“Now, Charlie… (I stretch my arm out onto the wall and stand firm, leaning into her big bright eyes)… you know not to go into my drawers, right?” She nods. I feel a calm come over me…. Thank you, God…. “Then why did you go into my drawer?”
“I was looking for a towel,” she says.
“OK, I understand you wanted a towel, and you’re smart, you know where they are (our bath towels are in my drawer)….but the rule is, you are not to go into my drawers or my closet without asking, OK?”
“OK”, she says.
I tell her, “Next time, there is no warning, straight to time-out, OK?” She nods. I tell her, “Now, I told you not to get a towel and you did. I don’t have shelves in the closet, Charlie, so I have to stack everything sideways and maybe one day I’ll get shelves, but in the meantime, you can’t go in there without asking because I don’t want it to get messed up, OK?”
She nods and says, “OK”.
I tell her, “I love you so much… you know that, right?” She nods… “No matter what happens, no matter what you do or if I get angry or if you go to time-out, no matter what happens I love you.”
She says, “I love you, too… why are under your eyes (and she takes her little finger and does a swoosh move under her eye) , why are they shaped like a crescent?”
I ask her, “A crescent? Why are they shaped like a crescent?” I realize she is talking about the dark circles under my eyes… did I put make-up on today? Yes, I did… it must be fading… “You know what a crescent is?” I ask her. She nods, with a proud smile. “Well, they’re a crescent because that’s how God made me.” She was OK with that answer and we hug. We hug for a while… Theo comes over and I’m squatting down… he wants to get in on the hug, too… he’s pulling and jumping and smacked his mouth/nose off of my knee…. he’s bleeding, just a little bit… we all hug…. What’s consistent, Charlie, now and forever, I will always love you, I will always accept you, I will always talk through things with you and I will always go to bat for you. I believe in you…. I know that your strong will will get you through many tough things in life. It will help you accomplish your goals, your passions and will carry you through many dreams you dare to dream…. and I pity the fool who tries to tell you otherwise….